A WORD ABOUT EFFORT. Hey, all these cyclists work hard. Make no mistake: multiple-stage road bicycle racing is one of the most physically and emotionally demanding of competitive sports. It requires maximum focus, dedication, discipline, and effort. All train incredibly. All are gifted. All are disciplined. All put forth maximum effort. All use every possible permissible advantage. All are elite. You will see every last one of them suffer and give their all on the roads of the Tour de France.
A WORD ABOUT DOPING. To boost their high effort and to give them any possible advantage, some cyclists choose--or are seduced--to incorporate unapproved or banned power-boosting substances or methods in their training and preparation regimen. Oxygen-enriched blood and testosterone produces more power and endurance. Some riders who choose to use drug test-avoiding tactics or lab-masking substances or other unethical advantages will still not have enough power to be among the race leaders. But some cheaters who are also exceptionally gifted will win stages and be among the race leaders because of the extra advantage their deception gives them.
IT'S NOT JUST CYCLING. Such doping occurs in numerous sports, not just cycling. It is because cycling is trying hard--if not hardest of all professional sports--to wipe out doping that cheaters and cheating techniques are such a big deal. EPO, blood transfusions, bovine blood products, etc. can make the average well-disciplined athlete perform better and above-average well-disciplined athlete perform great. But it demolishes any concept of a level playing field.
GAMES THAT ARE PLAYED. There is a bit of a game of cat-and-mouse going on, as well as games of "everyone's doing it," "witch hunt, " and "let's be fair-handed." Cat-and-mouse is the game played by "physicians" who develop and distribute performance enhancing formulas that cannot be detected by existing blood and urine tests. "Everyone's doing it" is the athlete's choice to dope to simply level the playing field in the knowledge or suspicion that a competitor is doping. "Witch hunt" is the game played by anti-doping authorities that cry foul at anything mildly questionable in cyclists or team behaviors or tests (lab testing is NOT an undisputably exact science, which is why a balance of testing and accountability methods need to be incorporated). "Let's be fair-handed" is the game played by cyclists and teams who suspect drug-testing procedures, tests, labs, methods, and intent of anti-doping authorities.
A DESTRUCTIVE CIRCUS. It's a bit of a circus, actually; a circus that if continued will eventually destroy professional and amateur athletic competition. For now, around again we go...hoping for the best.
FOR THE RECORD: All cyclists thus far controlled (or drug tested) during this year's Tour de France are evidently "negative" for use of banned subtances. But, of course, that's what we were told as last year's Tour proceeded...until that after-race surprise regarding Floyd Landis.